Mets catcher Mike Piazza will make his 11th All-Star appearance. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)
HOUSTON -- Mike Piazza spent most of his media day session Monday talking about Roger Clemens, and Tom Glavine spent much of his time talking about Mike Piazza talking about Roger Clemens. To those who were able to cut through the hype over the issue du jour, though, one thing was strikingly obvious.
These are two New York Mets who are glad to be here.
They are two proud National League warriors in the latter stages of glorious careers, with a combined 20 All-Star Game selections, and each of them well aware that it could be their respective swan song in Major League Baseball's summer showcase.
Piazza, 35, whose 10-year streak of All-Star appearances ended last year in the wake of a groin injury, will start Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park once more as a catcher. But starting next year, he may have to be voted in or added as a reserve as a first baseman -- arguably the hardest choice this year (see: Jeff Bagwell).
Glavine, 38, is here for the ninth time. He has won 258 career decisions and has a typically svelte 2.66 ERA this year, along with a 7-7 record that is misleading because of four consecutive losses entering the break with little offensive support.
Maybe they will be back. Maybe they won't. It was apparent in the way they answered questions that they are particularly treasuring this moment.
"When I look back at last year, being injured, I know I've been blessed," Piazza said. "I've worked hard and I have a lot of people work hard on my behalf."
Asked whether the talk about his past with Clemens -- their heated moments in Interleague Play and at the 2000 World Series -- takes away from being here, Piazza said, "Not really. I'm excited about it, and I'm excited to catch him. You've got to have fun with it. It's fun for me. I don't know if I'll be back. I'm very appreciative of all that's been given to me. I look at the way my life has gone, and I am very thankful.
"Maybe it's my age, maybe I'm getting more mellow."
Immediately to the left of Piazza's table in the Four Seasons Hotel conference room was one of his backups, Atlanta's Johnny Estrada. There were two or three reporters at his table. There were oceanic waves of media crushed against Piazza's table, pushed back by two guards on each side of the slugger with the most career homers as a catcher.
"It's great," Estrada said, watching the scene. "I walked in and saw I'm sitting next to him, and I felt like I should pay to be here. I should get a bill. I feel like a little kid."
Tom Glavine / P
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
Glavine remembers that feeling, in 1991 at his first All-Star Game. He said he is not terribly concerned with whether NL manager Jack McKeon is able to use him for an inning or a hitter or two. This time it is more about just being here -- which means something good must have happened since that rough 2003, when everything seemed to go wrong for him and the Mets after he left Atlanta.
"I think the older you get, you definitely have a feeling of, 'This could be the last one,' " Glavine said. "I hope not. You come into it with more of that attitude, though, because it could be the last. It's a good feeling being here. It's always good to be around these guys and be part of this atmosphere. A lot of times you have to pull yourself away from where you don't want to be -- like last year."
Glavine said he is buoyed by the sight of fellow NL pitching staff members Clemens (who turns 42 on Aug. 4) and Randy Johnson (who turns 41 on Sept. 10) showing such brilliance at this stage in their careers.
"All of us old guys -- that's been a fun part of it," Glavine said. "Look at Barry Larkin (40 and an NL reserve). Guys not necessarily in their prime that are still succeeding. There seems to be a mentality that 34 or 35 years of age, that's it. Guys are taking care of themselves today, and you can play this game into your 40s."
Mike Piazza / C
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Piazza entered the break with a .297 average, 16 homers and 40 RBIs, playing more than half of his games in 2004 at first base after finally making the transition from behind the plate. Now he will be back in his old position, and he found himself answering question after question about what might happen when he squats behind the plate to catch Clemens. They are not only the NL battery, but past All-Star MVPs -- Clemens in 1986 and Piazza 10 years later. To his credit, Piazza handled every last question on the subject with class and the time of day.
"I'm excited to be here, catching a Hall of Fame pitcher, and that's my approach," Piazza said. "It's his personal moment, the state of Texas, the city of Houston, I'm happy to be part of that. I didn't want any of our history from a World Series to get in the way. I hope I hit well and I hope he pitches well.
"I'm very, very excited to be here."
Glavine said he could not, in his wildest dreams, imagine anything other than a first inning Tuesday in which two consummate professionals communicate effectively and put the past behind as AL leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki steps to the plate.
"This is a situation that has been brewing for a long time," Glavine said. "These are guys who have been great players for a long time, and that won't overshadow this game. Mike is aware of what this means to Roger. It's storybook stuff. He's not going to take anything away from that. Nothing's going to happen."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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